Qatar. Got to dance with those what bought you.

Oh my! What to say? Oh what a tangled, messy dance card.

My question for today at the moment:  How much of US foreign policy is now driven by Trump business concerns?

Monday, five (5) Arab nations cut ties — diplomatic and otherwise — with Qatar, a country rich by virtue of geography over huge oil reserves. Apparently, the Qatar monarchy has been giving succor to the Sunni Islamist terrorists and Iran. The Saudis and their friends, probably feeling empowered by the recent visit of dance with President Trump, decided to take action from the US diplomatic playbook and cross Qatar off their friend list.

Aside: In a statement loaded with irony, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif weighed in on the action: “Coercion is never the solution.” Really?  Iran was sanctioned heavily in 1996. Exports dropped from $277M in 1995 to $200K in 1996. Although I don’t understand the trade trends with Iran since 1996, it has been reported that sanctions worked in bringing Iran to the table of nuclear negotiations.

But, but, back to Qatar.  What about the Trump Organization?  Both here and abroad, Trump is soaked in business dealings – give and take –  with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and … here’s a map.

And I miss Molly Ivins and her acerbic wit — “got to dance with those what brought you”.   With the muddlement and confusement of all that is the Middle East and a President not keen on details but wanting to make deals, we now wonder who has bought position on the President’s dance card for foreign policy decisions.

How much is Donald Trump, POTUS,* indebted to foreign interests?  We demand that he release his income taxes and divest himself of any business interests, or resign.

For reference: I peeked at the US trade in goods – import/export data for 2016:

Qatar: exports from the US of $4,925.7M, imports to the US of $1,160.3M for a net balance of $3,765M.  Note, that is ~$3.8 Billion net. Whoa! Qatar writes big checks.

Saudi Arabia: Exports of $17.9B, imports $16.9B, net $1B.  Bigger business, smaller net. Hmmm.

* Yes, it kills me a little, Ann.

Fake News: Sanctions on North Korea

Yesterday President Trump invited the Senate to the White House for a briefing on North Korea.  Trump is going to subject North Korea to stronger sanctions.  Bold move. Wow. Oh wait.

When I look at the numbers the US Census Bureau publishes regarding US foreign Trade with North Korea,  it looks like the US has exported a total of $1.1B worth of goods to North Korea since 2000.  Divided by 16 years, the US average annual export to North Korea is $6.9M/year.   Putting that into units of Trump tower security running about $500K/day, the average annual exports to North Korea are approximately a 2-week security detail at the Trump Tower in New York …

So from my seat out in the bleachers, here is the Trump playbook:

  1. Create a “crisis”. (For this example, Tweet about North Korea behaving badly.  As President, he may have oh, I don’t know, a cabinet member, a whole department devoted to international relations? That would take too long and require a stated strategy, maybe some policy … but a Tweet!  A Tweet shortcuts all that and gets Spicer involved.)
  2. Announce loudly and boldly what you are going to do to address the crisis.  Make it sound creative and new and sort of like ‘I don’t know why no one else hasn’t thought of this before’.  (For this example, the Senate was summoned to the White House; Trump announced imposing stronger sanctions North Korea.  Let me pause to point out that the 2016 exports/net trade with North Korea was $100,000.  $100,000 for  Putting that in units of Trump tower security detail, we are going to impose stricter sanctions with North Korea adding up to 5  hours of Trump Tower security.)
  3. Take credit.  For what?  Senators at White House for national security briefing?  Swift, decisive action that doesn’t include war?
  4. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m going to pay more attention to how crisis are created and diverted.  Today, other news outlets note that having the Senate over for a non-announcement-event was really just a photo op.

But then, this is now really all yesterday’s news.  Today has moved on:  Government shutdown? Taxes? ACA repeal?

Buckle up.